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May 2020

Fight Age-Related Weight Gain

Middle-age spread may seem unavoidable—but you can escape the weight gain that afflicts so many of us in our 40s and 50s. Many Americans pile on extra pounds because of lifestyle changes that occur in midlife. In a lot of cases, people just don’t balance their calorie intake with their level of physical activity.

Here are some causes of age-related weight gain and what to do about them.


People gain weight in middle age for several reasons, such as changes in:

  • Metabolism. As you age, your resting metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns at rest) decreases by about 2% to 3% every decade. If you eat as much in your 50s as you did in your 20s, you’ll probably have extra pounds to show for it.

  • Activity level. Most middle-aged people are not as active as they were in their teens and 20s.

  • Body composition. Over time, muscle mass diminishes and fat increases. This shift slows your metabolism and makes it easier to gain weight.

  • Hormones. The hormonal shifts women experience before, during, and after menopause can add pounds and make fat build up around the abdomen.


You can avoid midlife weight gain by changing your:

  • Portions. Many of us eat larger portions than we should. Slowing down and enjoying your food can help you eat less. It takes about 15 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’ve had enough.

  • Diet. Make simple, permanent changes to what and how much you eat. By cutting 100 calories a day, you can lose about 1 pound per month. Easy cuts include switching from regular to low-calorie salad dressings and from whole milk to skim milk lattes. Eat more lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less salt and added sugar.

  • Activity level. Adding physical activity to your routine can burn calories and improve muscle tone. Walk more, drive less, take the stairs, and do your own yard work.

  • Workout routine. Walking, running, and biking are important, but strength training can counteract the loss of muscle that occurs as we age.

If your weight is creeping up, now is the time to lay the groundwork for the rest of your life. It all comes down to balance. If you eat a healthy diet and burn more calories than you consume, the weight should come off.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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